Penang Mooted as Removable Disk Drive Center

Posted on October 1, 1998 
Filed Under Julian, Nikkei Electronics Asia

by Julian Matthews

A disk drive industry pioneer has predicted that Penang will become the removable disk drive capital of the world by the year 2000.

Castlewood Systems Inc president and CEO Syed Iftikar said this at the launch of the first Malaysian-owned plant to build 2.16-Gbyte magneto-resistive (MR) removable drives in August.

“If Singapore is the hard disk drive capital of the world, then I look forward to making Penang the leading manufacturer of removable drives in the world by the next millennium,” said Syed, who was the founder of SyQuest Technology Inc, and a co-founder of Seagate Technology Inc, where he invented the first 5.25-inch hard drive.

Removable storage market leaders Iomega Corp, and SyQuest, already make the majority of their products out of Penang-based plants.

Syed was touting Castlewood’s ORB drive, first unveiled at the Comdex show last November, which has a sustained data transfer rate of 12.2 Mbps, the fastest transfer rate of any removable media product available today, making it completely video capable.

Syed said two plants, one owned by local contract manufacturer Trans Capital Holding Bhd, and the other, an Aiwa Co Ltd affiliate, will produce 240,000 ORB drives per month by year’s end in Penang.

Trans Capital has invested US$10 million in a 25,000-square-foot plant in Seberang Jaya, which began production of 5,000 ORB drives per month in August, and will ramp up to volume capacity of 120,000 units per month by December.

Syed said the company’s research indicated that the global market needs 10 million ORB drives annually through both OEM and retail channels.

He said the total production of ORB drives would hit 1 million drives per quarter by March 1999, and even that was still not enough to meet expected demand.

“I firmly believe sales of removable drives will overtake hard disk drives and revolutionize the storage industry. Consumers will not need a hard drive when you can buy a removable cartridge drive for much less, over the long run,” he said.

Good Price to Performance Ratio

Syed said the ORB’s price/performance ratio was the lowest in the world, bringing storage cost to about US$0.0139 per Mbyte. The ORB drive retails at US$199.95 with one cartridge and additional 2.16-Gbyte cartridges, priced at US$29.95. It comes in four versions: internal EIDE, external parallel port, internal SCSI and external SCSI.

“Over time, we expect to sell our drives at US$99 and through joint-ventures with Sony Corp (, and Hitachi Maxell Ltd (, we will introduce the next-generation, low-cost media cartridges that can store and play a full- length movie at only US$10. If you buy three cartridges that’s a total of 6 GB at US$130,” he said.

Syed said IBM Corp and Vobis AG have signed on to offer the ORB drive as an option to consumers while other OEMs may do so later. The company was also in talks with movie studios to offer ORB cartridges as a preferred storage medium for distribution.

“By the year 2000, we hope to introduce a 10-Gbyte product using giant magneto-resistive (GMR) technology.

Published in Nikkei Electronics Asia, Oct 01, 1998

by Julian Matthews, Malaysian correspondent


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